MINNEAPOLIS -- Since the start of the Vikings' offseason program, when Robert Blanton got a chance to stake his claim to a starting safety spot with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo sitting out with injuries, the Vikings' crowded competition at the position has been significantly affected by who's healthy and who's not.
That was true again in the team's exhibition opener on Friday night, when Sendejo (who was just activated from the physically unable to perform list last week), Blanton (who's out with a hamstring injury) and Sanford (who's battling back spasms) sat out. Mistral Raymond left early in the game with a concussion, and 34-year-old Chris Crocker -- whom the Vikings just brought out of retirement this week -- wasn't ready for game action yet.
The absences created an opportunity for safety Kurt Coleman, who has received some first-team snaps during training camp but has been mired somewhere in the middle of the safety competition. The former Philadelphia Eagles safety got the start at strong safety alongside Harrison Smith on Friday, though, and intercepted a tipped pass in the second quarter.
"That’s really all I ask for, is just an opportunity," Coleman said. "At the end of the day I think I can live with myself if I say I had the opportunity and I didn’t make it. But it’s tough to say you don’t get that opportunity and you felt like you should have, so I’m happy to be a part of this team."
Coleman was spotty in pass coverage the past four seasons with the Eagles and lost his starting job last season, but if there's one thing that might help him in Minnesota, it's his ability to find the ball like he did last night. He's intercepted seven passes in his NFL career, and hauled in four in 2011. In a secondary where no defensive back has intercepted more than three passes in a season since 2009, Coleman found one way to stand out on Friday night.
"Kurt has done a good job," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He’s a veteran guy. He’s been a good special-teams player in the league. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He works real hard, studies real hard, asks good questions, so he’s done a very nice job."